November is National Epilepsy Awareness Month. According to the Epilepsy Foundation, 1 in 10 people will experience a seizure throughout their life, and 1 in 26 will develop epilepsy.
Epilepsy is a condition that affects the central nervous system. A person with epilepsy will experience a seizure when the brain’s overactive electrical signals misfire. This causes disruption to the brain’s normal activity resulting in a temporary communication problem among nerve cells.
Most seizures last a few seconds or a few minutes and can make a person feel sleepy or confused for a period of time afterward. Some people may also not remember the seizure or what happened immediately before, while others may be very alert following a seizure. This varies from person to person.
Having a seizure does not necessarily mean that a person has epilepsy. But, if a person experiences one or many seizures for unclear reasons and is at risk for having additional seizures, they may be diagnosed with epilepsy. Epilepsy can be developed during childhood or later in life, and for some people with epilepsy, especially those who developed it at a young age, the seizures may become less frequent or eventually go away, depending on the cause or type of epilepsy.
Epileptic seizures usually fall into 1 of 2 categories: Partial or Generalized.
Partial seizures start in one part of the brain, but the abnormal activity may move to other parts of the brain. A person having a partial seizure may experience twitching throughout the body; have slurred, abnormal or unusual speech; or feel tingling throughout one side of the body. How a person experiences this all depends on what part of the brain is experiencing abnormal electrical activity.
Generalized seizures involve simultaneous abnormal electrical activities all over the brain. There are different types of generalized seizures.
- Absence seizures: During an absence seizure, a person will look like they are staring off into space or daydreaming for about 15 seconds After this type of seizure, the person usually quickly returns to their normal level of activity.
- Tonic-clonic seizures: In a tonic-clonic seizure, a person’s eyes may roll back, their muscles may stiffen and the person may make sudden jerking motions such as flinging their arms. Their body may also go limp, causing them to slump down or fall over. They may lose control of their bladder or bowel.
- Myoclonic seizures: Myoclonic seizures are brief, shock-like jerks of the muscles. These seizures generally do not last more than a few seconds. Sometimes a person will only experience one myoclonic seizure, but it’s possible that they may experience many in a short period of time (clusters).
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